In January this year the EPA's draft of the Environmental Testing and Analysis Act (環境檢驗測定法) was submitted to the Executive Yuan for review. Handled alongside it was formulation of important sub-laws and related legal regulations. The bill aims to improve the environmental testing and analysis system, strengthen management of organizations, personnel and equipment in the environmental testing and analysis industry, and enhance quality of testing and analysis data. After it takes effect, the Act will be able to enable integration and improvements to the management of environmental testing, making it more comprehensive.
Environmental testing and analysis is an important part of environmental protection. Accurate testing and analysis data are required to establish a basis for various types of work such as formulation of environmental laws and regulations, environmental impact assessment (EIA) investigations, environmental quality monitoring, pollution prevention and controls, and inspection and control of public nuisances.
Following the Executive Yuan's policy direction, the EPA's Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL), has developed an implementation plan in accordance with a medium-term implementation plan and an approved budget. The plan also took into account current social conditions and the EAL's future development. The four current objectives are as follows:
- Development of standard environmental testing methods
- Strengthening management of environmental testing and analysis organizations
- Conducting sampling and testing for environmental quality and pollution sources
- Promoting quality control and management to improve the level of environmental testing technology
The first objective is to develop standard environmental testing methods. The EPA aims to formulate and refine environmental testing standards, improve the quality of environmental data, and facilitate development of the environmental testing Industry. Other goals include improving the mechanism for issuing penalties at different levels based on severity of violations. It is therefore necessary to change legislation to enable the new management measures, hence the drafting of the Environmental Testing and Analysis Act.
Legislative process for the Environmental Testing and Analysis Act
- The purpose of drafting the bill is to improve the environmental inspection and analysis system, strengthen the management of organizations, personnel, and equipment related to environmental inspection and analysis operations, and enhance data quality.
- The current management for the environmental inspection and analysis industry follows the Environmental Analysis Organization Management Regulations (環境檢驗測定機構管理辦法). Enterprises in the industry are required to go through rigorous evaluation procedures when applying for permits, and comply with announced testing methods and related quality assurance and management measures as they conduct their environmental testing work. Although the management system is becoming more sound, most environmental tests are commissioned by enterprises for testing organizations to conduct, which may raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
In addition, the Environmental Analysis Organization Management Regulations originally were formulated under authorization of nine different environmental laws, and penalties for false or misleading testing have been limited by the scopes of authority under each law. Therefore, it is hoped that the system for managing environmental inspection and analysis can be integrated and enhanced through a new, comprehensive Environmental Testing and Analysis Act.
- Legislative process: The draft was first preannounced on 25 January 2021 and a second time on 29 December of the same year. A total of 22 meetings were held to solicit opinions from all sectors. On 12 January 2023 the draft was submitted to the Executive Yuan for review along with changes to important sub-laws and related legal matters.
- Stringency of management and methods mapped out under the draft have been adjusted after considering feedback from all sides. The Act focuses on the four major categories below:
(1) A gradient of management requirements for the environmental testing industry: The testing industry is divided into different levels based on factors such as human resources, facilities and capabilities, with each level being allowed to conduct different tests and subject to different management requirements. Enterprises that consistently achieve outstanding performance in conducting tests will be treated as higher-level, while those with poor performance can be graded down. A testing entity's deemed level will affect what tests it can perform and at what scale (e.g., higher-level organizations can undertake tests at larger market scales). In order to promote positive competition in the market, there is also a gradient for the stringency of management requirements, such as permit expiration/extension rules and frequency of inspection.
(2) Certification of environmental testing personnel: With appropriate training, different types of personnel (e.g., laboratory directors, quality control personnel, field sampling and laboratory analysis personnel, etc.) are to be certified for various specialized qualifications to ensure high professional standards.
(3) Inspection of testing facilities: Key facilities used for environmental testing are subject to inspections as required by the competent authority, and will undergo regular and random inspections to ensure they are properly maintained and in good condition.
(4) Testing fee collection and payment: The method of commissioning tests is to be changed. The environmental tests conducted in accordance with environmental laws will be announced with designated testing items (such as regular testing stipulated in the Air Pollution Control Law (空氣污染防制法) or the Water Pollution Control Law (水污染防治法). Entities announced as obligated to conduct designated tests are to commission testing organizations to sign standardized contracts and carry out said designated tests. Competent authorities are responsible for collecting testing fees from commissioning parties first and paying them to testing organizations, as well as completing audits and testing reports, so as to better ensure that commissioning parties do not influence test results.
- 5. Multiple meetings held to discuss issues and responses with industry representatives.
(1) On 28 November 2022 the EPA held talks with the Taiwan Environmental Certified LAB Commercial Association, and also solicited opinions from the Chinese National Federation of Industries and the Central Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China. However, opinions still differed regarding the graded management system, which may affect business volumes and the rights of businesses. It may also affect fee collection and payment via delegated third-parties, increasing the burden on industries and testing enterprises.
(2) The EPA will continue to communicate with industry representatives and hold meetings to consult with industries, experts, and scholars when drafting key policies and sub-laws. There will be more precise policies and supplementary measures to alleviate industry concerns and incorporate feedback from all sectors to develop comprehensive control measures.
(3) For important policies, the EPA will first plan feasible measures, such as strengthening cooperation with the Taiwan Environmental Certified LAB Commercial Association on personnel certification and graded management. Assistance will be provided to help enterprises with voluntary testing of personnel on topics such as safety of testing and analysis environments, basic testing and analysis principles, practical training, and the graded management of the testing industry.
- 6. Continuous enhancement of environmental testing and analysis management before the Environmental Testing and Analysis Act is enacted
(1) Additional future measures to enhance management include increasing frequency of unannounced inspections and evaluating the technical capabilities of testing organizations.
(2) In 2022, the EPA started to employ big data analysis to systematically identify abnormal test result patterns, such as discrepancies among reported itineraries, the number of samples, and the number of personnel. Inspection frequency and severity of penalties have also been raised in cases of the aforementioned violations, with the number of inspections planned in 2023 being at least twice that in 2022.
(3) To strengthen management of the testing industry, the blind sampling and testing method will be improved with distribution of double-blind samples, blind sampling and testing with additional verification, or designation of specific targets for blind testing.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, March 2023
- Ministry of Environment